It can be challenging for families when their kid falls behind on the growth curve. When this happens, it’s only natural for parents to want to see their child catch up on their weight and height. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t lose hope. You can take action to help get your child back on track.
Dr. Ganesh Kadhe, Director of Medical and Scientific Affairs at Abbott’s Nutrition business delves deeper into intricate interplay talking about stunting, a form of malnutrition and the role nutrient-dense food plays in helping pave the way for growth.
Childhood malnutrition, which is either a result of undernutrition or overnutrition, is detrimental to a child’s overall development. It casts a long shadow over global health, affecting one in three individuals worldwide. A common form of malnutrition among kids is stunting, where they are below a healthy height for their age. Today, across the world, there are approximately 149 million stunted children below the age of five.[i]
In fact, a report by the World Health Organization shows that India accounts for nearly one-third of the global childhood stunting burden with 40.6 million children stunted under the age of five.[ii]
Nutrition Matters: Unlocking the Potential of Child Growth and Development
It all starts with nutrition. Proper nutrition provides the essential building blocks to help children grow, learn, thrive, and meet important milestones. Undernutrition can be caused by inadequate dietary intake, poor nutrient absorption, and/or poor nutrient utilization.[iii] It can have serious consequences for kids a risk of immune deficiencies, compromised cognitive function, behavioral problems, diminished bone health, and decreased muscle mass. Hence, addressing nutrient deficiencies early helps them reach their full growth potential.
Complete, balanced nutrition is essential for growth, cognitive development, and immune function. The solution can be simple – finding ways to incorporate good nutrition in children’s diets can go a long way.
Parents and caregivers should continually assess their child’s growth and speak with a healthcare professional if they believe their child is falling behind. Sometimes, nutritional supplement drinks can help bridge nutritional gaps and enhance the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals from foods. Parents and caregivers should consult their child’s doctor to determine the suitability of a nutritional supplement drink.
Key nutrients that play an indispensable role in helping a child reach their growth potential:
- Calcium: Acts as a foundation for bone and dental health, and is needed by the body for muscle contraction, blood circulation, and nerve communication. Foods high in calcium include dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. For those who are lactose intolerant, alternatives like fortified plant-based milk (soy milk, almond milk) can be considered. Green leafy vegetables like spinach and fenugreek (methi) are also good sources. Additionally, Vitamin K2 promotes calcium absorption and utilization in bones
- Vitamin D: Referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”, this is a unique nutrient synthesized by our bodies through sunlight exposure. Vitamin D levels are necessary to increase the efficiency of calcium absorption. Apart from its collaborative role with calcium in fortifying bones, Vitamin D also contributes to bolstering children’s immune systems. Some dietary sources of vitamin D include fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Fortified dairy products like milk and cereals can contribute as well
- Zinc: Supports immune cells and plays a pivotal role in proper growth, especially during childhood. Foods rich in zinc include legumes like lentils and chickpeas, nuts (especially cashews and almonds), whole grains like wheat and rice, and dairy products
- Vitamin A: Ensures healthy skin, mouth, and lungs, crucial for fighting infections and maintaining vision. Foods high in vitamin A include orange and yellow fruits and vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and mangoes
- Protein: Building blocks for cells, muscles, and hormones, aiding muscle development and satiety. Good protein sources include lentils, beans, chickpeas, tofu, paneer (Indian cottage cheese), lean meats like chicken, and dairy products
- Fluids and Electrolytes: Vital for lubricating joints, removing waste, and temperature regulation. Along with water, coconut water is a natural source of electrolytes. Traditional Indian beverages like buttermilk (chaos) and lemonade can also help with hydration and electrolyte balance